Four years later, in 2006, I was able to return to Africa, this time to the country of Kenya. Once again, the agenda was to lead worship for a discipleship training conference for pastors and church leads on a regional basis, but this time would be a much different experience. There would be no hotels and missionary housing. This time, we stayed with the local pastor. It was amazing to see that the pastor and his wife and several children all gave up their beds and slept on the floor together in the living room, so we could sleep on their "not so comfortable" bed. How could I complain about the hardness of the bed I slept in when I knew that down the hall a pastor and his wife and children were sleeping on the floor. What an amazing sacrifice they may for me and my team. This was my first humbling experience.
I did my best to eat the food they offered. Some of it was recognizable, but some of it wasn't. After a few days I got so sick that I was unable to eat any more. But amazingly, when it would come time to lead worship, I would have supernatural strength. We literally had 4-hour church services twice per day. We would go from about 9a to 1p…break for lunch and a nap and then go from about 5p-9p and then go back and have a little snack (most people only ate one meal per day which was in between the services) and then hit the sack. God would show up in amazing power, as people would cry out to him for provision, rain, healing, etc…but most of all for his presence. These people had nothing and no one else they could depend on except God. If God did not come through for them, they were dead…literally. Oh how I wanted what they had.
There were pastors and leaders from several African nations, including Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. This is where I met Maurice Odhiambo, the founder of Manna Ministries. I was immediately drawn to him, as it was obvious he truly had a heart for God. He wanted to see others know God in the way that he had come to know him. He wanted to teach and train others to be able to teach and train others…a true disciple maker.
Upon returning home from the conference, after many more wonderful and amazing experience that I can't go into at this time, I kept in contact with Maurice to see what God was doing. I began partnering with Manna Ministries to help them train and equip pastors to preach the Gospel and to help make disciples. But there were other ministries that Manna began to develop that God started to turn my heart towards. As a father of 4, I could not help but take an interest in the feeding program that Manna had started in the slum schools of Nairobi. So after several years of hearing about what Manna was doing and partnering from a distance, we decided it was time to plan another trip to Kenya to see the feeding program for ourselves and meet these kids and teachers in the slum schools of Nairobi.
This time I was able to take my wife Kim, my sister Wendi and my good friend and business partner Jimmy Gunderman (there's no way they would have let me come without them, because they were sick of hearing it from me…they wanted to see it for themselves!!) to see what God would have in store for a more intimate partnership with Manna Ministries. It was on this trip that we were able to see the poverty up close and personal. We were given a guided tour through the slums of Nairobi to visit the 7 schools that Manna Ministries had adopted to help feed the children who attended those 7 schools.
We came to learn that most of the children in the feeding programs would not eat anything at all during the week, except for what they got at school. Praise God, they were getting two meals a day at school, but they would eat nothing in the evenings or on the weekends. Again, these are the fortunate ones. When I asked Maurice what we could do to help, he mentioned the fact that there are 1,000's of children that do not get to eat every day because they can't afford to go to school (uniforms and books are required by the government) or because the schools they would attend didn't feed them. Evidently (per Maurice), most kids don't have parents who can make them go to school because the parents are dead/missing, or the parents are off trying to make money. So, instead of going to school and getting an education yet not getting fed, they wander the streets in the slums of Nairobi looking for food or trying to get (or steal) money to buy food.
The streets were so crowded with little children in the middle of the day that you would have assumed that school was not in session, but yet we would pull up to a school after passing by hundreds of kids in the streets, and there was another group of kids (the fortunate ones) who were eagerly awaiting our arrival because they heard "Americans were coming". It is a very sad situation with thousands of children dying of starvation each month.
After several hours touring the streets in the slums of Nairobi, seeing and smelling horrific things that should never have to be, we left and went back to our hotel room with our running water and our clean sheets and our mosquito nets over our beds so we don't get malaria. And that's when it hit us…WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!!
The next day we met with Maurice and we asked "What is it going to take to make more of a difference here in the slums? It's great that you're feeding almost 700 kids every day, but there are thousands who are not eating and most of them not going to school at all." He said the key is getting the kids to go to school. If they don't go to school then their chances of survival go down drastically. But if they don't get fed at school and they don't get fed at home, then they have nowhere to turn to try to live on a daily basis. So the key, Maurice said, is partnering with more schools to bring the feeding program into the schools so more kids will come back to school and more kids will eat.
When I asked Maurice how much it would take to feed each child he said $1 per child. I thought he meant $1 per child per day, but then he clarified…"No…$1 per child PER WEEK!!" I said "Are you kidding? Are you seriously saying that we can feed a child for a WHOLE YEAR for $52?" He said…ABSOLUTELY!!
I about started crying as I looked down in my hand to see the Coke bottle that I had just paid $1 for so I could have something cold to drink. I had to deal with that reality for a few minutes. Wow, I thought. The cost of this Coke would have fed a child for a week. This is crazy. Maurice explained that they do not take a single penny out of what is donated to the feeding program. He said that they volunteer their time, energy, vehicles, gasoline, etc. to gather the money, go to the store, buy the food in bulk, load the bags of food and then drive to each school each and every week to deliver all of the food to make sure each of the seven schools they've adopted so far has food for their kids.
One of the great things that has happened since this feeding program has started is that each of the 7 schools Manna Ministries has adopted has grown in the number of children who are attending on a daily basis, because they know they will get food!! Isn't that amazing!! What a blessing. To know that kids who would not have gone to school are now going to school and getting educated and also getting fed.
And here's the most beautiful thing of all…because of what Manna Ministries is doing to help meet the physical needs of these children, they are allowed to come in and do Bible studies and tell Bible stories to teach the children about Jesus and help them see that HE IS THE BREAD OF LIFE!!!
So it ultimately comes down to the fact that we want to magnify Jesus Christ to these children by meeting them where they are. They are physically hungry, malnourished and weak. They need physical attention first, in order for us to create an opportunity for them to be willing and able to listen what we have to say about Jesus Christ. And for only $1 you and I can feed a child for a FULL WEEK who would probably otherwise not eat at all, and could die of starvation without hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Will you help me? Will you help us raise $52,000 so we can add 10 more schools to the feeding program so an additional 1,000 children can eat for a year? If 1,000 of us would just give up one soft drink per week for a year or one movie rental per week for a year we could each easily give $52 over the course of the next year to feed one child. I'm asking you…I'm begging you…PLEASE help me feed these hungry kids. I will gladly take you to Nairobi on our next trip and let you meet them for yourself. You will not be able to turn away from them and go about your life as if all is well in the world. But don't wait to start helping until you see if for yourself. Take my word for it. They need you now!! Please give. And then also download each of the 10 songs from my last two albums that are available on this site as my gift to you. Thank you SO much for your willingness to help us. Please bookmark this site and forward the link to this site to your friends, family members, schoolmates, coworkers, neighbors, teammates, Sunday School class, small group, and anyone else you can think of. It's going to take a lot of us coming together to make this dream a reality. I can't do it without you. Thanks again for your help.
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my children, you did it to me.'